It’s time for another Grey recap! I realize that somewhere along the way, I stopped putting in links to my older recaps. This is because I’m as capricious as the sea. You’ll note that instead of writing this, I could have put the link in.
Also of importance: I’ve noticed the occasional remark in the comments asking about inconsistencies in the book (like Ana taking off her graduation robe, etc.). These are just places where I skipped that passage or didn’t mention what seemed to me to be an inconsequential detail. If there is a massive inconsistency like that, I’ll definitely note it. My nit-pickery is the stuff of legend. I just don’t want you to get the impression that this book has errors in it that it doesn’t actually have. There’s enough badness in it already.
Okay, let’s get inside of this like a skin suit.
Previously, on Grey, Chedward made Ana’s graduation all about himself and his sex wants. Now, he’s leaving the graduation by himself. Taylor tells Chedward that the Audi A3 has been delivered to the Heathman:
Now I just have to give it to Ana. No doubt this will involve a discussion, and deep down I know it will be more than just a discussion.
I believe it turns into, “I sold your car without your permission,” actually.
Then again, she’s agreed to be my submissive, so maybe she’ll accept my gift without any fuss.
She agreed to be your submissive on weekends. Not your full time financial submissive whose property you can shuffle around all willy-nilly.
I call Andrea and tell her to put a WebEx breakfast meeting into my schedule tomorrow with Eamon Kavanagh and his associates in New York. Kavanagh is interested in upgrading his fiber-optic network.
What…what exactly does Christian Grey do? Is he in customer service? How important is Kate’s father that when he wants to upgrade something technical at his business, he actually speaks to the CEO of the company and not someone in sales?
Andrea also tells him that he has to be in Seattle for a charity thing the next night. I wonder if we’ll actually see the charity thing, or if it will be skipped in favor of more stuff about running or working out.
Tonight will be my last night in Portland. It’s almost Ana’s last night here, too…I contemplate calling her, but there’s little point since she doesn’t have her cell phone. And she’s enjoying time with her dad.
You like that little afterthought? No point in calling her, since she doesn’t have her cellphone. Oh, and she also has a life outside of my wants.
Now, we all know that there is no one so skilled as E.L. James at capturing the voice of a twenty-something American male, and here we have a shining example of that sterling authenticity:
Staring out the car window as we drive toward The Heathman, I watch the good people of Portland go about their afternoon. At a stoplight there’s a young couple arguing on the sidewalk over a spilled bag of groceries. Another couple, even younger, walks hand in hand past them, eyes locked and giggling. The girl leans up and whispers something in the ear of her tattooed beau.
This is practically right out of a Kevin Smith screenplay.
Of course seeing these two couples has made Chedward think of Ana and their impossible relationship:
Ana wants “more.” I sigh heavily and plow my fingers through my hair. They always want more. All of them. What can I do about that?
Consider the women you have sex with to be actual humans with thoughts and emotions of their own, that might not always line up with the things you want?
The hand-in-hand couple strolling to the coffee shop–Ana and I did that. We’ve eaten together at two restaurants, and it was…fun. Perhaps I could try. After all, she’s giving me so much. I loosen my tie.
Could I do more?
Probably not, Chedward. You scoffed at the idea of helping her move into her new apartment.
(Underline = Italics)
I’m still astounded at how sociopathic Christian comes off. I know, I know, don’t armchair diagnose behavioral disorders. But he has so many of the hallmarks. He can be charming to get what he wants, he has an inflated sense of his self and what he’s entitled to, he can’t empathize, he was violent as a child/teen, his emotions are very superficial, he’s a thrill seeker, and while he’s very successful in business, we see that he has a terrible work ethic. These are all red flags for sociopathy. And this instance is a pretty good example. He’s thinking, okay, I want to fuck Ana, I want her to be my sub, but she wants more. And he doesn’t think, oh, she wants more as in, she wants love. He’s thinking she wants the surface trappings of a relationship. Oh, she wants more? I guess I can hold her hand and take her to dinner. I guess I can imitate the actions of people I have seen who are in love, and that will be enough. Because he doesn’t understand that it’s not the actions that will make Ana feel loved, but that feeling love results in those actions.
There’s a section break, then Christian goes back to his room and changes his clothes and goes to work out, then there’s another break and he video calls Ros. They use the usual big business-y words and toss around the names of important cities, then he tells her the graduation was fine and then he emails Ana. So the whole thing with Ros is totally unnecessary scene number 4,926,510 for this book.
The email is basically that she looked beautiful and they need to talk about the soft limits. He also decides that since she didn’t call him back that morning, she needs a better cell phone, so they can be in constant contact. But the problem wasn’t that her cellphone isn’t good, it’s that she didn’t have it. Whatever. He asks Andrea to have a BlackBerry delivered to Ana. Then there’s a section break.
Christian’s mother calls and imparts information we’ve already gotten a few times now: that Christian needs to pick up Mia, that they’ll be having dinner on Saturday, that Elliot is bringing Kate to dinner. Grace tells him to bring Ana, and he thinks:
Take Ana to meet my parents? How the hell do I get out of that?
“Sorry, mom, Ana was busy.” There. You’re welcome.
Ana emails Christian back and tells him that she can come over to discuss the soft limits that evening, and Christian emails her back:
I’ll come to you. I meant it when I said I wasn’t happy about you driving that car. I’ll be with you shortly.
Christian prints out another copy of the contract and tells Taylor to pick him up from Ana’s place later.
Before I leave I stuff two condoms into the back pocket of my jeans.
I might get lucky.
This is the most human-like thing Christian Grey has done in the entire book so far.
The A3 is fun to drive, though it’s got less torque than I’m used to.
No shit? NO SHIT? You drive an R8. Of course a supercar has more torque than a compact car.
Christian goes to a liquor store to buy champagne:
I forgo the Cristal and the Dom Pérignon for a Bollinger, mostly because it’s the 1999 vintage, and chilled, but also because it’s pink…symbolic, I think with a smirk, as I hand my AmEx to the cashier.
Symbolic of what? Her vagina? Also, the liquor stores in Portland must be a lot different than the liquor stores in Michigan. If I wanted to buy any of those, I would have to go to a specialty wine shop, or a hoity-toity food shop. Liquor stores here are like, come buy Mr. Boston mixers with dust on the caps and some scratch-off lottery tickets. The floor is almost always chipping linoleum tile, one of the overhead fluorescents is out, and for a business that doesn’t sell car parts, it smells an awful lot like motor oil. #PureMichigan.
Ana is still wearing the stunning gray dress when she opens the door. I look forward to peeling it off her later.
The constant assumption that sex outside of their agreed upon arrangement is infuriating.
I hold up the bottle of champagne. “I thought we’d celebrate your graduation. Nothing beats a good Bollinger.”
“Interesting choice of words.” Her voice is sardonic.
“Oh, I like your ready wit, Anastasia.” There she is…my girl.
It’s funny because he said “beat”, and that’s how Ana views any and all BDSM. As abuse. That’s why it’s so funny. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.
I watch her wander into the kitchen. She’s nervous and skittish. Perhaps because she’s had a big day, or because she’s agreed to my terms, or because she’s here alone–I know Kavanagh is with her own family this evening; her father told me. I hope the champagne will help Ana relax…and talk.
So, Christian does notice that Ana is uncomfortable and wary around him. He thinks that it might be because she agreed to the contract. Hey, Chedward? Maybe this is a sign that she doesn’t really want to do it, and therefore probably wouldn’t make a very good sub? He also considers that it might be the fact that they’re alone together. Again, how will this private, one-on-one relationship work out? And he hopes that alcohol will “help Ana relax,” as though this is the only solution. How about talking to her? Not about the contract, not about what you want sexually. Talk to her as though she’s a person and not a sex toy, and maybe she won’t be constantly worried that you’re going to put her in a position where she feels unsafe.
Nah, that’s too much hard work, just do this:
There’s a brown parcel on the table with a handwritten note attached.
“I agree to the conditions, Angel; because you know best what my punishment out to be; only–only–don’t make it more than I can bear!”
Heads up, that super romantic and totally about spankings quote is, in context, what Tess is saying to Angel after he’s like, “Hey, I had this affair, but please forgive me. You do? Awesome, then we can get married. Wait, you were raped? Fuck it, I’m out. If you need anything, you know where my parents are.”
But you know, it accurately reflects the way Christian Grey would react in that exact same situation.
“A very apt quote.” I trace her handwriting with my finger.
Yeah, I know! Your author doesn’t know, though, and that’s what makes this so tragically hilarious.
“I thought I was d’Urberville, not Angel. You decided on the debasement.”
“Wait, I thought I was the rapist, not the guy who rejects rape victims. PS. have some literary victim blaming.”
“It’s also a plea,” she whispers.
“A plea? For me to go easy on you?”
To me these books were an investment, for her I thought they’d mean something.
“I bought these for you.” It’s a small white lie–as I’ve replaced them. “I’ll go easier on you if you accept them.” I keep my voice calm and quiet, masking my disappointment.
Take note, dear readers: Christian will maybe respect your limits, but only if you do exactly everything he wants you to do. Is that so hard?
Look, to all potential submissives out there:
you DO NOT have to allow a Dom to overstep your personal boundaries in order to assure the Dom’s compliance with the agreed upon terms of your consent. Yes, even in a 24/7 relationship. If your Dom is telling you straight out, “If you don’t do this, I’m going to treat you however I want without regard for the agreement we’ve made and that you’re comfortable with,” then RUN.
Ana is asking to forgo hard play, and Christian is saying that no, that’s not a possibility if she doesn’t allow him to overstep her boundaries in other areas of her life. This is example #8375981735981735684756187346581734698609245860-92745986723874561837675923846-09245698273495872349086729457698237459263458623498679234976920384759283475092384769823476908273498672034765827346589723649872349672 of why he should not be a Dom. Actually, it’s reason # that same exact string of nonsense numbers that Christian Grey just should not be.
“You see, this is what I was talking about, you defying me. I want you to have them, and that’s the end of the discussion. It’s very simple. You don’t have to think about this. As a submissive you would just be grateful for them. You just accept what I buy you because it pleases me for you to do so.”
Translation: “Look, if you were a REAL sub, you would–”
Chedward is preying on Ana’s insecurities about her inexperience with submission to get her to agree to stuff she doesn’t have to agree to. If she doesn’t want the books, she is under no obligation to keep them just because he wants her to.
“I wasn’t a submissive when you bought them for me,” she says quietly.
As ever, she has an answer for everything.
“No…but you’ve agreed, Anastasia.”
And accepting gifts without argument isn’t in the contract. She didn’t agree to that. This is another indication that what is/isn’t in the contract really doesn’t matter. It gives her no protection or agency whatsoever, and at no point in either the negotiations or their relationship does he respect her wishes in anything.
Ana agrees to keep the books, but she’s going to give them to a charity in Darfur, so they can auction it or something.
“I will buy you lots of things, Anastasia. Get used to it. I can afford it. I’m a very wealthy man.”
Read it in his voice. It fits perfectly.
“It makes me feel cheap,” she says.
“It shouldn’t. You’re overthinking it. Don’t place some vague moral judgment on yourself based on what others might think. Don’t waste your energy. It’s only because you have reservations about our arrangement; that’s perfectly natural. You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into.”
Translation: “What you feel is wrong. You shouldn’t feel that way. If you do feel that way, you’re thinking wrong. Don’t do that. This is what’s really bothering you, not that other thing. I know that because I know more than you do, even with regard to your own feelings.”
I know a lot of people throw the term “gaslighting” around these days, but if you ever need a go-to sentence to illustrate the concept, it’s his response there.
What if he had said:
“I’m sorry I made you feel that way. I understand now that because people do judge women who receive money or gifts from rich men, you worry that I see you in the same light. I should have thought of that before, but I’ve never been on your side of it, so it didn’t occur to me. I shouldn’t have pressured you into taking the gift, but please know that when I do give you something, it’s not because I think of it as a payment. I want to give you things because this is how I express my feelings for a person, and I sometimes forget that not everyone would see a very expensive gift as being over the top or pushy.”
Would that have made him “less sexy?” I use the quotes there because there is no way to make Christian Grey less sexy. He is already at rock fucking bottom. In reality, if you did remove his self-centeredness, nothing would be left behind. His entire personality is just the word “ME” emblazoned in ALL CAPS and vomited onto this manuscript.
“Hey, stop this. There is nothing about you that is cheap, Anastasia. I won’t have you thinking that. I just sent you some old books that I thought might mean something to you, that’s all.”
Translation: “Obey me. Other women are cheap, but not you. You’re not allowed to have that feeling. I gave you this very expensive gift, the value of which I will now downplay to make you feel guilty about not appreciating them properly.”
What if he had said:
“Again, I understand that you feel this gift is degrading, but I promise that if you keep it, my esteem for and opinion of you will not lessen.”
But we can’t have that. Because if we had that, we would have a book that is readable and a hero we don’t want to murder, and the crux of Fifty Shades of Grey‘s success is the huge market it had for hate reading.
They stop fighting about the books and open the champagne.
“It’s pink.” She’s surprised, and I haven’t the heart to tell her why I chose pink.
Can you at least tell us? I know that answer is supposed to be so super obvious, but there are so many options. Is it because she blushes? Is it because her ass is going to be red from paddling? Is it about her vagina? I must not understand the complicated nuances of this masterful prose enough to glean the answer for myself.
She raises the cup to her lips and takes a quick sip. “Shall we go through the soft limits?”
“Always so eager.”
It’s…why you came over. And you already spent at least ten minutes arguing about the fucking books.
“Your stepfather’s a very taciturn man.”
Thesauruses are NO ONE’S friend. That shit is how the phrase “masticating emptiness” ended up in my first novel.
They talk about her dad and fishing, and the wine at the reception:
“Yes. It was foul.” I grimace.
“I thought of you when I tasted it. How did you get to be so knowledgeable about wine?”
“Yes. It was foul.” I grimace.
“I thought of you when I tasted it. How did you get to be so knowledgeable about wine?”
After they talk about how super wine-smart she is:
I refill her cup. She regards me suspiciously. She knows I’m plying her with alcohol.
Thank you, Chedward, for confirming my accusations from the first book.
“This place looks pretty bare. Are you ready for the move?” I ask, to distract her.
To distract her from realizing that he’s getting her drunk to manipulate her. Not because he cares or is interested in her life outside of his sexual wants.
“I’d help you move,[…]”
No you wouldn’t, you fucking liar. We’re inside your head, we saw your thoughts on helping Ana move. So what we’re seeing in this scene is you lying, and using this lie to distract Ana from the fact that you’re trying to get her drunk.
He asks about jobs in Seattle, and gets frustrated when she tells him that she’s already looking for one. She’s two days away from moving, of course she was looking for a job. Anyone would assume this, and probably be shocked if she wasn’t looking. He also has never asked her if she was looking for a job, so why does he get to be upset that she didn’t tell him? He wants to know the names of every publishing house she’s applied for internships at, and she won’t give them up. Good for you, Ana.
Chedward pours her more wine, or “liquid courage” as he mentally refers to it, but also worries that she hasn’t eaten. She rolls her eyes at him and then:
Leaning forward, I take hold of her chin and glare at her. “Next time you roll your eyes at me, I will take you across my knee.”
“Oh.” She looks a little shocked, but a little intrigued, too.
“Oh. So it begins, Anastasia.” With a wolfish grin I fill her teacup and she takes a long sip.
“Got your attention now, haven’t I?”
“Yes, you’ve got my attention,” she says with a contrite smile.
They are not in a scene here. They are negotiating terms. She is off-duty. He should not be ordering her around.
They get out the contract and go over some of the soft limits.
“No fisting, you say. Anything else you object to?” I ask.
She swallows. “Anal intercourse doesn’t exactly float my boat.”
“I’ll agree to the fisting, but I’d really like to claim your ass, Anastasia.”
So back in the day, my response to this scene was something like, just try the butt stuff, and it was met with a lot of protest. I stand by my assertion: Ana, you are the heroine of what has been (wrongly) dubbed the single dirtiest erotic novel of all time. How are you not going to even try butt stuff?
That said, this whole thing is such bullshit. She tells him a limit, and he acts like her asshole is still on the table. Or…I phrased that poorly. She’s not a cat. But you know what I mean. She said no, he says, nah, your “no” doesn’t work for me.
“But we’ll wait for that. Besides, it’s not something we can dive into.”
I bet some of you were waiting for this.
I’m not going to disappoint you.
Here it is.
“Oh yes. It’ll need careful preparation. Anal intercourse can be very pleasurable, trust me. But if we try it and you don’t like it, we don’t have to do it again.” I delight in her shocked expression.
“Have you done that?” she asks.
“With a man?”
“No. I’ve never had sex with a man. Not my scene.”
“Yes.” And her large rubber strap-on.
Ana frowns and I move on quickly, before she can ask me any more questions about that.
This conversation confused me when I read the first book, because it’s never specified that he’d tried receptive anal sex. Now we know, but it would have made more sense to tell us this in Fifty Shades of Grey, because it was like, well, okay, anal intercourse is pleasurable and you’ve done it…but you weren’t the one being penetrated. And with all the “HE’S TOTALLY NOT GAY NOT AT ALL SUPER ABSOLUTELY NOT GAY” in that first book, I assumed they were talking about him doing the penetrating. I also think Ana assumed that, too, though I can’t remember what she thought in the other book. It was probably something like, “Holy crap” or “Oh jeez” that lends absolutely no context or clarity to the situation. But my guess is that a woman who had never heard of BDSM probably hadn’t ever heard of a strap-on, either, and just assumed Chedward was doing the giving and none of the taking.
Also, let’s be honest: “But if we try it and you don’t like it, we don’t have to do it again,” is not true. Not coming from Christian Grey. He’s more a “But if we try it and you don’t like it, I’ll convince you that you did by saying that if you didn’t, it’s because of some sexual hangup and you’ll keep on doing it to prove you’re worthy of my extreme kinkiness.”
The move on to other things on the list.
“And…swallowing semen. Well, you get an A in that.”
Thanks, I’ve been practicing.
He gives her either her third or fourth cup of wine:
Steady, Grey, you just want her tipsy, not drunk.
HE IS TELLING US IN HIS OWN THOUGHTS IN HIS OWN HEAD THAT HE IS GIVING HER ALCOHOL SPECIFICALLY SO THAT SHE WILL AGREE TO SEX ACTS SHE MIGHT NOT HAVE AGREED TO WHEN SOBER. It doesn’t matter if that sex act isn’t performed that night or the next night or the next week or month. He is using a drug to get her consent, ergo he does not have her consent at all and he never can, no matter what she signs.
I want to find every person who insisted that he didn’t get her drunk to get her to do sexual stuff and just take this page and smear it all over their fucking faces. I mean, really grind it in there. Probably while screaming, “DO YOU SEE IT NOW?! HUH? HUH, MOTHERFUCKER? DO YOU FUCKING SEE IT NOW?!”
This would all take place in the parking lot of a grocery store, but I’d like to think that I could cheese it before the coppers got there.
They’d never take me alive.
Chedward and Ana discuss sex toys, including vibrating eggs, which Ana thinks are real eggs–so I was right about the strap-on assumption, then–and Christian laughs at her. When her feelings are hurt, he apologizes, and they move on to bondage.
“Don’t laugh at me, but what’s a spreader bar?”
“I promise not to laugh. I’ve apologized twice.” For Christ’s sake. “Don’t make me do it again.” My voice is sharper than I intended, and she leans away from me.
Ignore her reaction, Grey. Get on with it.
What a fucking dick piñata this guy is! Don’t make you apologize again? How about stop mocking her when she doesn’t know what something is? How about apologies aren’t fucking miracle cures when someone’s feelings are hurt? And ignore her reaction? Lovely. Prince fucking Charming this guy is.
They discuss the use of gags. Ana doesn’t want to do it, but of course he explains that they’ll be doing it anyway. She asks him if the reason he ties up his submissives is because they can’t touch him, and he tells her yes, but won’t go into further detail.
“Would you like another drink?” I ask. “It’s making you brave, and I need to know how you feel about pain.” I refill her cup and she takes a sip, wide-eyed and anxious. “So, what’s your general attitude to receiving pain?”
I’m reading this book, aren’t I?
This is where I’m stopping, because there’s not great place to stop for this one. There are still fourteen more pages until the next section break and I haven’t the strength.